Statement exposes inactivity of investigating judges
British prosecutor Andrew Cayley yesterday said the Khmer Rouge tribunal had not been diligent in an investigation that was concluded last month and announced plans to seek the questioning and charging of crimes against humanity suspects who so far have not been disturbed.
In a detailed statement, Mr Cayley also disclosed the alleged crimes and crime scenes under review and called on the public to come forward with complaints and civil party applications in Case 003.
The statement provided the first public information about the scope of a case that had been closed before victims were notified of the contents. It was not endorsed by Chea Leang, Mr Cayley’s Cambodian counterpart, who has hewed to a government line in opposing the investigation.
Though diplomatically phrased, the statement constituted a rebuke of the court’s co-investigating judges, effectively revealing how little they had done before announcing the closure of the case on April 29.
The judges are reportedly attempting to scuttle Case 003 as well as Case 004, both of which, Prime Minister Hun Sen has said, will not be “allowed.”
But Mr Cayley said in the statement that the crimes alleged in Case 003 “have not been fully investigated” and that he was legally obligated to request all reasonable investigative actions.
It was unclear whether Mr Cayley’s action could increase the likelihood that Case 003 will ever be processed by the court. No Cambodian judicial officer at the tribunal has so far acted in support of the cases without sanction.
Though the court has not publicly identified the suspects in Case 003, a confidential prosecution pleading indicates that they are Khmer Rouge navy commander Meas Muth and Khmer Rouge air force commander Sou Met.
Mr Cayley’s statement called on the co-investigating judges to take the most basic steps, such as questioning the suspects, notifying them of charges and investigating their roles in the transfer of prisoners to the secret police execution center S-21.
He also asked that the judges undertake a search for mass graves, interview witnesses and transfer evidentiary records from the court’s second case, which proceeds to trial later this year, into Case 003.
The court this year slashed its budget for investigations by nearly $1 million, saying fewer resources would be needed due to “overlap” between cases 003 and 004 and the court’s first two cases, which have already been completed.
However Mr Cayley’s statement revealed such overlap did not account for the potential breadth of inquiry in Case 003, which contains “new” crimes and “criminal episodes” that may concern an as yet untold number of victims from across the country.
The statement also directly contradicted claims by Cambodian Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang that “all crimes” committed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime had already been identified in the court’s first two cases.
Five new crimes and crime scenes were identified:
– S-22, the air force detention center in Phnom Penh’s Toek La’ak area, which was reportedly under the command of Sou Met, according to information held by the Documentation Center of Cambodia;
– security centers operated in Ratanakkiri province, where government records say thousands of members of ethnic minorities were murdered by the Khmer Rouge, according to historian Ben Kiernan;
– the Stung Hav rock quarry worksite in what is now Preah Sihanouk province;
– the Wat Eng Tea Nhien security center, also in Preah Sihanouk;
– the capture of foreigners off the coast and their transfer to S-21 or murder.
Case 003 also incorporates crimes and crime scenes already reviewed by the court:
– the S-21 secret police headquarters, where as many as 14,000 people were exterminated;
– the Kompong Chhnang Airport, a brutal worksite which was under the command of Sou Met and was beset by executions;
– the bloody cross-border military raids on Vietnam of 1977;
– the purges of the East, Central and New North zones.
The court has so far taken no action to encourage members of the public to lodge civil party complaints in either Case 003 or 004.
Under court procedure, the April 29 conclusion of the investigation gives civil parties until 4 pm on May 18 to come forward to file complaints.
Until yesterday, this had been practically impossible for most members of the public because no information had been released about the scope of the investigations.
Mr Cayley said yesterday he intended to request a six-week extension of the May 18 deadline in order to allow potential civil parties to come forward.
The court said yesterday it was too soon to say whether this would involve a high-profile public campaign of victim outreach, as occurred in previous cases.
“It is too early for us to do any work because he put out his press release today,” said Reach Sambath, chief of public affairs.
Only two individuals, human rights activist Theary Seng and New Zealander Rob Hamill, have so far made claims against Sou Met and Meas Muth.
Ms Seng’s application was apparently rejected by the court last week and Ms Seng said yesterday evening that she intended to lodge an appeal against this.
Mr Hamill, whose elder brother Kerry was arrested by the Khmer Rouge navy off the Cambodian coast in 1978 and murdered at S-21, said yesterday that he anticipated a rejection as well.
However he called Mr Cayley’s statement a “positive sign.”
“[T]here is no doubt in my mind about the link to my brother’s capture, torture and murder and the individuals I named in my civil party application,” he wrote yesterday, noting that his own lawyer had never been given access to the 003 case file.
“I hope that the [co-investigating judges] will do the right thing and that the message is out there loud and clear that victims who have suffered direct and personal harm connected with any of the crime sites listed in the prosecutor’s press release are entitled to apply to the court for civil party status.”